War Story

26 June, 2005

His name is Wes and he is 23 years old. On his third and last tour to Iraq, he was captured by “insurgents” in Fallujah. He is now detained at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. In a few days he has a hearing in front of the military court and is being tried on 3 counts of war crimes. How did I meet him? He sat across from me, drunk, on a plane from San Diego. He was allowed a short leave to visit his dying grandmother. Behind Wes sat Philippe. He leaned forward to share his experience, “I know what you mean” he said, from when he was part of French UN forces in Yugoslavia in 1993. “How did you get captured?” asked Philippe.

Wes: “I was commander of the very left of my unit. Five of the best Marines, I mean they were awesome. We were so in sync with each other that we wouldn’t even have to talk.

We were on a mission to take over a hotel in Fallujah. The government drastically misjudged the strength of the enemy. We began clearing the rooms by throwing grenades in each one, killing the people inside. Usually the squad leader goes last, he’s supposed to. But I go first. That’s why I love Alexander the Great because he always went in front of his men. By the time we entered the fourth, fifth, and sixth rooms we were running out of grenades. In the fifth or sixth room we went in, the insurgents killed everyone but me. They shot me twice in my chest. Although I was wearing armor, I fell down and lost consciousness. The force that hit me was enough to blow through an entire town. I woke up once and shot a guy in the chin. Lost consciousness again.

Woke up a second time to see the last of my brothers killed, butchered. I saw his face normal and then saw it blown to pieces. He was shot in the face three times. There were pieces everywhere. I mean these guys trusted me without a second thought…

The insurgents took me to a jail. They were really nice to me, would ask me how I was doing and I would say, ‘I’m doin’ okay.’ They would videotape me so they wanted me to look happier. Then they sold me to a street gang.”

Philippe: “Yeah, this is where war gets complicated…”

Wes: “They would torture us to get information. They would take a metal pipe and some wire to make a noose. They would choke me for three minutes. I could hold myself for three minutes then I would be exhausted. They would let me go for twenty seconds and then lift me back up. I watched a friend die by being choked. First they twitch a lot and then their tongue falls out.

They would leave and then come back, leave and then come back. I got to know their schedule. Another prisoner there had been a prisoner of war before as a news reporter, but I guess they don’t like to kill reporters so they let him go. He joined the Marines afterwards and always carried a knife in his ass. We sat cross-legged with our hands tied behind our backs. He got the knife out of his ass and I stuck it in mine. When they didn’t come back for a while, I got the knife and cut my ties. I began to escape because I didn’t have anything to lose. This is life or death.

I walked up behind one of the guards who wasn’t paying attention, stabbed him in the lung then slit his throat. I took his gun and one by one started picking off the rest of them. Knocking them out with the end of the gun and then I took my knife and cut off their ears and noses. I was so angry and full of hate.

I walked outside… here I was…walking the streets. Suddenly a Marine convoy pulls up. They had been fighting in Ramadi and were on their way to me. If I just would have been patient, none of this needed to happen, but I had no idea. I told them what happened. I shouldn’t have obviously. They saw the bodies and my sergeant was pissed.”

Wes is being tried for war crimes because he maimed the Iraqi prison guards. He faces up to a life sentence in military prison. He feels extremely guilty, thus getting drunk at his first chance and shouting his story to a plane full of strangers. He also feels betrayed by the Marines; he feels like he was brainwashed and is being punished for something he was trained to do – kill.

Wes joined the military after September 11th, 2001. Philippe joined the French military because one is forced to serve at least one year in the military there.

Philippe: “You never know when bombing will go off. Snipers, snipers everywhere. In a marketplace [in former Yugoslavia], I saw a woman shot in the neck out of nowhere. Never know…bomb. Bomb. Bomb.”

Wes: “That’s how it was in Iraq. We would hear a bomb go off and I’d throw one of my buddies outside. I think its human nature to downgrade things to deal with them.”

“Iraqis are the best fighters. They never give up. At least my friends were killed by the best and not some retards. Sergeant Jenkins, a short black man from Jersey. Brave. Could stand right in front of the enemy and not be afraid. They took a machete to his head, three chops, so hard it cut off part of his shoulder. Taught me that we aren’t the best fighters in the world, we aren’t immortal.”


1 Response to 'War Story'

  1. Wes Modes
    http://www.spooncafejournal.org/2009/12/war-story.html?showComment=1260898812737#c3565729159394086180'> December 15, 2009 at 9:40 AM

    This one is heartbreaking. It was hard to read again, but I'm glad you shared it, Laurel. More more more of your writing!


Post a Comment